After the New York Islanders had been knocked out of the playoffs a win shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the questions turned to whether or not the Islanders should have added more scoring to the roster. While the Islanders didn’t during their lengthy playoff run, they might have a chance to add a scorer’s touch now that Vladimir Tarasenko reportedly asked for a trade from the St. Louis Blues.
And the Islanders are on the shortlist of teams that Tarasenko would go to, according to The Athletic. But would it be worth it for the Islanders to give up significant pieces in the hopes that trade would push them over the hump?
Right now this is all just a pipe dream with the Islanders in a precarious cap situation with a number of longtime members of the team due for new contracts. Casey Cizikas is headlining the group of unrestricted free agents the Islanders will look to re-sign, while Adam Pelech tops the list of RFAs Lou Lamoriello must deal with.
The priority for Lamoriello is pretty clear following his final media conference of the year last week. Lamoriello is looking to lock up his restricted free agents and avoid a repeat of last year when he was forced to ship away Devon Toews to make more room under the salary cap.
“There’s no hidden secret that our cap forced us to make a decision or two last year,” Lamoriello said. “We have no intention of allowing the respective three restricted free agents to not be signed.”
However, Vladimir Tarasenko’s newfound availability might change that if the Islanders were to pursue a trade with St. Louis and start one of the biggest roster shakeups for the franchise since John Tavares departed via free agency three years ago.
The Islanders have roughly $5 million in cap space available right now meaning they would have to shed a lot of cap space to make this work with Tarasenko taking up $7.5 million in cap space over the two remaining years on his current contract. That would mean Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy’s $5.5 million cap hits would need to go and that would change Lamoriello’s approach to the RFAs, likely using Beauvillier in trade to acquire Tarasenko.
Even then, the Islanders would still need to shed Leo Komarov’s contract and try to get rid of Andrew Ladd’s $5.5 million cap hit. Those deals would likely need sweeteners too in the form of draft picks for a team to agree to take those cap-heavy contracts on.
In fairness, Lamoriello is likely looking to shed some of those contracts anyway and, with the emergence of Oliver Wahlstrom, the loss of Eberle might be less severe.
Still, the Islanders will pay a hefty price to bring in Vladimir Tarasenko, who comes in with baggage of his own. The star forward has appeared in just 34 games for St. Louis in the past two seasons because of injury problems, which means whoever takes a chance on Tarasenko will be doing so at a sizable risk.
Part of the injury issues stems from what reportedly was an issue with the first two surgeries he had with team doctors in St. Louis. His third surgery was carried out by a non-team doctor and revealed that the first two procedures to repair the ligament damage in his shoulder from the initial injury three years ago was not corrected in either of the first two operations.
That has caused a rift between Tarasenko and his current team and brought us to the current point where he wants out of the Gateway to the West.
Vladamir Tarasenko may very well return to the 30-plus goal scorer he has been over the course of his career, but there is no guarantee of that. Teams will be calling and St. Louis will be working from a position of weakness now that the cat is out of the bag over Tarasenko’s desire to leave.
Lamoriello will undoubtedly inquire about the talented forward, who theoretically would add that scoring touch to the Islanders’ top-six forward group and power play. Still, if the price isn’t right, then the Islanders need to walk away.
The Islanders have gone to the Stanley Cup Semifinals in back-to-back years with the core they have. The cap crunch and expansion undoubtedly mean that some of those core guys will not be next season, but the right choice for the short and long-term future is not to get caught overpaying for a player that still has a lot to prove after injury-plagued seasons the past two years.
That’s not to say the Islanders shouldn’t or wouldn’t try to improve the team if the right player came along, but it would have to be the right player to go through the hurdles it would take to fit Tarasenko under the cap.
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